NFL apologizes for penalizing player who prayed in end zone

The NFL apologized on Tuesday for the officials penalizing a player who kneeled in prayer after a touchdown.

During Monday Night’s Kansas City Chief blowout of the New England Patriots, Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah who is a devout Muslim, intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Celebrating his touchdown, Abdullah dropped to his knees and offered prayers of thanks to his God and was immediately cited for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.

The league explained the reason for the apology to ABC News:

Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ABC News in a statement.He said he NFL’s Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground. However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play,” the NFL’s statement read.

Making the prayer penalty especially noteworthy is that Abdullah is a Muslim. Prior to the apology media reported that the penalty was based on his faith, that it was obvious that he was kneeling in Muslim prayer. The KC player himself cast doubt on that theory opining that the penalty was the result of his sliding into the end zone on his knees which may have given the referee the impression he was doing an improper celebration rather than a prayer.

Praying after touchdowns has become rather commonplace in the NFL especially after quarterback Tim Tebow became famous for kneeling in the end zone and placing his head on his arm in prayer after each score. Some would even suggest had Tebow made it to the end zone for prayers more often he would still be in the NFL.

Update (AP): Welcome back, Rosie.